Tag Archives: books

winter reading

Spring is officially here and it’s time to review the books I’ve read over the last few months. Not surprisingly, moving across the world limited the number of hours I could dedicate to reading, but I still managed to enjoy a few great books:

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. This is a story about two boys, best friends who grow up with their lives intertwined. As they are forced to confront the joys and sorrows of life, their friendship matures and so do their thoughts on how fate influences the direction of life. Borrowed from my friend Manja.

Wildwood by Colin Meloy and illustrated by Carson Ellis. A fantastical story that immerses you in Wildwood, a secret world in the forest above Portland, Oregon. The wilderness holds an army of wolves, kidnapping crows, and peaceful mystics. When young Prue crosses into this world, she finds herself amidst a scene ready for an adventure to unfold.

South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami. Another beautiful tale from Murakami. The story of Hajime, now a successful businessman in Tokyo with a wife, children, and a settled life. His former classmate Shimamoto suddenly returns to his life, mysterious and beautiful, turning it upside down.

My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss. A must-read for anyone that finds themselves identifying with more than one culture. Born in Berlin, Germany to an American father and an Italian mother, Luisa Weiss struggles to find her place in the world and ends up finding that home is created in the kitchen. Wherever in the world that kitchen may be. An honest story with a dose of romance and recipes.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë. Helen Graham takes up residence at Wildfell Hall, in a small English town. Living a simple life with her son, but no husband, the townspeople imagine her past as ripe with scandal. The truth is a tale of a marriage ruined by alcohol and infidelity, and a woman who refuses to compromise her moral standards of life.

Tess of the D’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy. Tess Durbeyfield is the eldest daughter of a poor family in a small English village. When her father finds out that they are descendents from the noble d’Ubervilles family, her life takes a turn in a sad and darker direction.

Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach. A story of a love affair between the wife of a rich ship merchant and an artist during the height of the Golden Age in Amsterdam at the height of tulipomania. A farewell gift from sweet Mandy.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I am still in the middle of this book (to be followed up by this article), but it had to make the list. The true story of the brutal murder of four members of the Clutter family, killed in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959. A gift from my younger sister.

With the big move over, I’m excited to get back in a steady reading rhythm. Any book suggestions that go well with a dose of Pacific Northwest sun?

Image by artist Marisa Swangha.

reading lists and recommendations

How do you end up reading certain books? Do you get recommendations from friends or tips on social media? Do you keep an ongoing to-read list? Or does a cover catch your eye in a bookstore? Every since I began using Moleskine agendas, I’ve kept a list of books to read on the last page and am constantly adding tips from Twitter, recommendations from friends, or the titles of interesting books I see in stores. I recently created a pinterest board of books I want to read and am constantly looking for new titles. Here’s a list of what I read over the summer and how I came across each book.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. A story about a group of students at an English boarding school as they grow up and slowly learn that their lives are destined for another purpose. I enjoyed reading Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day and watching the film adaptation of Never Let Me Go, so I thought I would be enamored with the book. But I found the writing was a bit stiff. It’s not often that I’d recommend a film over the book, but that’s the case here.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I finally had my chance to read the latest from one of my favorite authors, which I gave to Marcus for Christmas and had to wait for him to finish. In the books of Murakami, I know I will always get a dose of the dark, mysterious, intriguing, and perplexing. 1Q84 is the story of a parallel world and parallel lives, with a threatening cult thrown in the mix. I know people who found parts repetitive, but I thought the pace of the book reflected the rhythm of music, one of Murakami’s recurring themes. I didn’t want it to end, and that’s the best recommendation I can give.

The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart. A very pleasant read about a man with a deep sadness who is put in charge of the royal menagerie. Sweet, but not frivolous. This had been on my to-read list for a while after seeing a recommendation in an issue of Real Simple. Check.

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. I heard an interview with the author on NPR last winter and was naturally drawn to a story that attempts to intertwine the characters from a book by one of the greatest authors. It’s an engaging novel from a murder mystery point of view, but the characters were nothing like the characters of Pride and Prejudice. I spotted this book in a bookstore in Bath and thought I would see what it would bring.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. A look at the lives of two women in Kabul, Afghanistan. Mariam’s life is a struggle from the start and when her father forces her to marry an older, cruel man, it only gets worse. A few houses away, in another world, Laila lives a life of happiness with her parents. When her family is killed, Laila and Mariam’s lives are brought together and they become stronger as they struggle together.

Persuasion by Jane Austen. My favorite Austen book about the story of a second chance. I’ve read it a dozen times and will a dozen more.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. This book begins at a university with three students exploring the limits of sanity, which was written so spot on that it made me nostalgic for my undergraduate days. The students leave the comfort of higher education and the real character development begins. I can’t remember when this book landed on my to-read list, but I finally got my hands on it thanks to the lovely Ellen.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. A story set in New York at the end of the 19th century. The beautiful Lily Bart belongs to a society bent on pleasure and centered around money. This book is almost as good as The Age of Innocence. My younger sister and I have been reading American classics together over the past year and this was a gift from her.

If you’re interested in more reading tips, here are some previous posts about books I’ve read: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. I’d love to hear recommendations from you!

read lately

It has been a while since I wrote about books. In the last few months, I haven’t read as much as usual, rather focusing on the wedding, visiting family, and work events. Summer is slowly arriving and I have a pile of books waiting for me. What will you be reading this summer?

Books and audiobooks from January – May
Elizabeth I
by Margaret George. An epic work of historical fiction that centers around the life of the Virgin Queen of England. I listened to this audiobook over the span of many weeks and was enthralled with the conniving courtiers, the battles against the Spanish Armada, and the struggles and joys of reigning a kingdom.

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim. An inspiring story of four English women who decide, in defiance of social propriety, to escape the rain and drear of England for a springtime in Italy. I listened to this audiobook while riding my bike through rainy Amsterdam with the promise of a honeymoon in Italy ahead of me.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. While I wasn’t a huge fan of The Corrections (gasp!), I really enjoyed Freedom. Even in their absurdity, I could identify with the characters who must face ‘the temptations and burdens of liberty’.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. This classic follows the life of Billy Pilgrim and, most poignantly, when he witnesses the bombing of Dresden during World War II.

Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz. Cognitive scientist and dog lover Alexandra Horowitz investigates the ways dogs experience and understand the world.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. I listened to the audiobook while traveling the Amalfi Coast. A short, sweet autobiography about the comedy writer and her reflections on her childhood, youth, and coming into her profession.

Yeah. No. Totally. by Lisa Wells. Written from the heart of Portland, Oregon. A tale of a floundering generation set against a backdrop of music and booze, the expanse of nature and the harshest realities.

The General in His Labyrinth by Gabriel García Márquez. A story of the last travels of General Simon Bolivar as he takes a journey down the Magdalena River, revisiting cities and memories.

The Newlywed Cookbook by Sarah Copeland. A cookbook that has been a new source of inspiration in the kitchen since 7 April. The photography by Sara Remington is fantastic and the recipes are divine.

You Look at Me Like An Emergency by Cig Harvey. An autobiography in photographs and words.

summer reading


A slower pace at work and a long holiday in Turkey allowed for more reading than the first part of the year. Here, a recap of the books I read this summer:

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. A work of historical fiction about the Dutch East Indies Company’s outpost in Japan through the eyes of the young clerk Jacob de Zoet.

Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss. Described as a ‘biography-in-collage’, this work looks at the lives of scientists Marie and Pierre Curie as they fall in love and discover new elements of the periodic table together.

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. The crazy world in which the bombardier Yossarian tries to survive when the number of missions he has to make before he can complete his service keeps being raised and the ominous rule of Catch 22 hangs above.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The story of fireman Guy Montag who lives in a dystopic world in which books are burned and independent thoughts questioned.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. A portrait of an African-American girl raised in the South and her childhood moments of triumph and tragedy.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. A view on 1870s upper class New Yorkers in which recently engaged Newland Archer faces off with the demands of society as his relationship with the scandalized cousin of his fiancée deepens.

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. A collection of short stories portraying the reporters, editors, and related characters of an English-language newspaper based in Rome.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. Catherine Morland visits Bath and then the mysterious abbey and learns how tricky it is to navigate through 18th-century society.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. A novel written through an exchange of letters between novelist Juliet Ashton and members of a unique society on Guernsey Island. They share their experiences during the German Occupation of World War II and friendships form through the post.

Also two audio books!

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. The story of an unforgettable protagonist, Oskar Blum, a young boy who lives in post-9/11 New York. He heads out into the city on a quest to understand his father’s death at the World Trade Center as the tale interweaves with his family’s past.

Bossypants by Tina Fey. The autobiography of comedian and producer Tina Fey, describing the forays of her youth and the experiences that led to her career success.

books from winter and spring

The months since January have been filled with work projects, making the moments I could escape into a book even more of a pleasure. Here, an overview of the books I have read over the past five months, with the addition of two from my recent holiday:

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. An escaped convict flees Australia for India to start a new life. Adventure ensues as he enters a life of crime and philanthropy in Bombay, while providing insight into the penal system he fled.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. Actually a book for young adults, a quick read about 15-year-old Daisy who departs from New York to visit her cousins in England. War breaks out, the adults disappear and the children must learn to survive on their own.

Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier. A non-fiction account weaving together the stories of past travelers to Siberia and Frazier’s own experience exploring the vast region and its history.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. A young girl from a poor family and her stories of growing up in Brooklyn. Just beautiful.

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova. A psychologist explores the secrets that keep a patient, renowned artist Robert Oliver, in a vow of silence. His search leads him into an exploration of the lives behind French Impressionism. An interesting read, but not as captivating as Kostova’s The Historian.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. Journalist Julie Jarmond’s investigation into Vel d’Hivs, a round up of Jews in Paris, unveils unexpected links to her own life. I fail to see how this could be a New York Times bestseller.

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson. A novel inspired by Lucy M Montgomery’s tales of Anne Shirley, which imagines the years of childhood that formed the girl who first appeared in Anne of Green Gables. Lovely, full of imagination, and exactly the Anne I expected.

Weekend Links #9

A little late this week, but here it is! Weekend Links is a collection of the interesting bits and pieces that I’ve come across on the streets and online. The weekly post is my chance to share with you a few things that I have enjoyed, in a list compiled during the weekend. I hope you enjoy them as well.

A few things I enjoyed this week:
1. Starting to see the ‘best of 2010’ lists. Some favorites: NPR’s Best Books of 2010 and Totally Cool Pix top photos of 2010 part I and part II
2. Scoring an ‘impressive’ on the CNN cultural landmarks test. I was more pleased that I have been to six out of ten of the landmarks (Berlin Wall, Big Ben, Angkor Wat, Eiffel Tower, Alcatraz and the Collosseum in Rome) than I was at my correct answers (via @kfar53)
3. Making enough cranberry sauce for a year. This recipe is delicious over plain yoghurt (image above via here)
4. Still loving Breathe Owl Breathe and this wintery tune
5. Reminiscing about the lovely Sunday Market at Westerpark (image below)

Wild and Homeless Books

This image makes me happy (via constant wanderlust).